The Final Authority
Give Me the Bible
By David B. Smith
Is trusting the dusty messages found in a two-thousand-year-old book — with your life — a good wager?
There’s a YouTube video where a young man from England sells all that he has (to borrow a biblical line from Mark 10:21), travels to Las Vegas, and puts his life savings on a single spin of a roulette wheel. He picks red, the ball falls into #7, and he doubles his money, flying home (first-class, no doubt) with $270,000. Yet that against-the-odds lucky result pales when compared to the Bible’s proclaimed promise: if we follow its teachings, we can gain eternal life.
Can any single literary masterpiece sustain such a claim?
The theorems in a math textbook might help you pass a class and get a prestigious degree. A diet book helps you shed those holiday pounds. The principles set forth in a law encyclopedia could keep you out of the slammer! A literary agent who makes friends with a novice British mommy and writer wannabe named Joanne Rowling can earn millions in commissions and gain the satisfaction of entertaining millions of Harry Potter fans.
But the messages you find in an old book entitled Holy Bible can transform your life, offer a tangible eternity, and set you up with an amazing Friend named Jesus.
Let’s address the main questions that naturally occur to any skeptical person.
1. Why is the Bible worth our study time and devotion?
God’s Word boldly states that it is a guidebook for our salvation. The crisply modern Message paraphrase for 2 Timothy 3:15 says: There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through Christ Jesus.
The Bible is also an amazingly effective blueprint for successful living. Consider the Golden Rule, admired and quoted around the globe, the eloquent simplicity of Matthew 5’s Beatitudes taught by Christ, the power of selfless forgiveness proclaimed by Paul. That same letter of advice to Timothy suggests that Bible truths are useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. A renowned California psychologist named Leonard Felder, Ph.D., wrote a bestseller entitled The Ten Challenges, eloquently crediting the Ten Commandments as a brilliant guide to emotional health and productive life.
2. But why is the Bible more valid than any other self-help bestseller I can find at Barnes & Noble?
The Bible itself contains a unique claim. By its own admission — validated by its inherent power and influence — the Word of God is exactly that. It is God speaking directly to the human race by a holy process called inspiration. The evangelical teacher John Stott once confessed: “We have not invented our message. We do not come to people with our own human speculations.” Paul, one of the most prolific of New Testament writers, explicitly states the same: I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ (Galations 1:11, 12). When we pick up the Bible and read, we are encountering the mind of God, reading His extended love letter to us, just as surely as the Library of Congress contains the original Gettysburg Address scratched out by President Lincoln.
We find more of the inner workings of this miracle process described by Peter: Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke FROM GOD as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (1:20, 21). The Greek word theopneustos conveys this idea of God breathing through the mind and personality of a human writer; in fact, the entire 66 books of Scripture arrive in our world through the colorful talents and human fragility of some forty men, living in different lands and eras — and with decidedly contrasting resumés. Scholars of all faith backgrounds affirm that the Bible we trust today is a divine revelation of God’s will, but flowing through the vocabulary and literary limitations of the men empowered to be heaven’s penmen. “God doesn’t smother the human writer,” one theologian sagely observed. The NIV text notes add: “The human author also actively spoke; he was more than a recorder. Yet what he said came from God.”
In C. S. Lewis’ celebrated space trilogy, he wonders about the possible existence of an original heavenly language spoken throughout the vast network of unfallen worlds: Hlab-Eribol-ef-Cordi or “Old Solar,” he calls it. But God has been kind enough to speak directly to the citizens of earth, transmitting the salvation code to us using regular guys who wrote things down in Hebrew and Greek . . . and later in English, Spanish, German, Thai, and on and on the miracle continues. It gives us hope to realize that God reaches down into this broken world and communicates with us through our own peers; He did not simply leave a message hidden underneath a rock and hope we would find it.
So Christians firmly believe that there is something different and sanctified about the writing we find from Genesis to Revelation. Millions of believers may go to Amazon and order a copy of Rick Warren’s life-changing bestseller, The Purpose-Driven Life. It is a wonderful and beneficial book . . . but not inspired. The brilliant writing of Martin Luther and Billy Graham has encouraged the body of Christ for centuries, but it is not in the same category as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Sometimes this process of inspiration happened through dreams, as in the colorful experiences of Daniel and Isaiah (1:1). Moses was moved to record an accurate history of the children of Israel; Paul writes repeatedly about how God supernaturally opened up his mind with hard-hitting rebukes and sustaining truths for the infant church.
3. Any author can make great claims. Besides its own testimony of being God’s Word, how can we be confident of the Bible’s reliability?
A. A unified whole. The Bible displays a remarkable cohesiveness, despite the fact that it was written over the space of hundreds of years, by men who never met one another. To be sure, there are apparent inconsistencies in such a monumental work, translated through the centuries by mortal men. But decade after decade, as more truth breaks through and as fresh archeological discoveries shed light on the process of God unfolding His rescue plan, the Bible is regularly strengthened as a safe guide for people living in this 21st century.
B. Fulfilled predictions. The Bible contains a vast panoply of prophecies that have already been fulfilled. The Old Testament repeatedly gives details about a coming Messiah; Jesus arrived in our world in a unique way and measured up to a host of predictions. World empires rose and fell in strict accordance with a blueprint shared by Daniel long centuries before the fact.
C. An unedited transcript. Another confidence-booster is somewhat ironic: the unvarnished confessions in the Bible. Christians accept Peter as one of the inspired writers; yet in his letter to the Galatians Paul dutifully records how he blasted his associate for knuckling under to peer pressure and reverting to the old practice of discriminating against the Gentiles. The very public sins of people like King David are spelled out in all the scarlet details; in fact, Paul admits in 1 Corinthians 10: These things happened to them [sinners] as examples, and were written down as warnings for us. Many sordid anecdotes, if edited by a self-serving ghostwriter, would have been deleted out of the historical record and never found their way into the sometimes blunt Bible accounts we read today.
D. The example of Jesus. Perhaps the most important reason for a confessed Christian to place faith in the Bible is that Jesus Himself did so! Christ quoted the Bible; He lived by it; He taught it and commanded His followers to do likewise. There were difficult passages and controversial, hard-to-decipher principles in the Old Testament scrolls available to Him while He lived among us, yet Jesus never wavered in His confidence that the Word of God was armor against temptation, a belt of truth, and a flaming sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6).
Two vital realities should instruct how we relate to the Bible.
1. The Bible carries the weight of an authoritative resource. Jesus submitted Himself to the authority of Scripture; He ordered His own life by the divine written word. He parried the accusations of Lucifer and prefaced His biblical replies with “It is written” (Matthew 4). Sincere Christians need to bow before the principle that the Bible’s teachings trump all other voices and life philosophies. If an angelic being of light says A, but the Bible says B, then the Bible’s clear word should reign supreme. Likewise with what we hear the preacher say, or experience in a dream, or perceive as an impulse from our conscience. The Bible must tower over all other resources.
2. God’s Word is a testimony regarding Jesus; it was given to lead us into community in God’s family through a saving friendship with our Savior and Lord. Jesus Himself pointed skeptics to the Old Testament scrolls and then said plainly: “These are the Scriptures that testify about Me.” As we read the Bible for devotional clarity and also to understand its great doctrinal themes, a search for Christ should be our foremost objective and fondest reward.
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David B. Smith writes from California. (1 of 28) His web page is Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information. Biblebay